Obama: Elie Wiesel Raised His Voice Not Just Against anti-Semitism, but Against All Bigotry

French President Francois Hollande lauds Wiesel as a 'tireless defender of peace'; World Jewish Congress' Ronald S. Lauder says the Nobel laureate's death is the loss of 'the most articulate witness to history's greatest crime.'

U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel  visit the former Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, June 5, 2009.
Mandel Ngan, AFP

Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was "the conscience of the world" and a "living memorial" who compelled humanity to act in the face of suffering, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday.

Wiesel, a prolific author, died Saturday at the age of 87. Wiesel was perhaps best known for his major role in promoting Holocaust education, and for perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust in the post-World War II era with his memoir “Night,” based on his experience as a teenager in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

"He raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms," Obama said. "He implored each of us, as nations and as human beings, to do the same, to see ourselves in each other and to make real that pledge of 'never again.'"

Obama recalled his visit in 2009 to the Buchenwald concentration camp with Wiesel and said he was honored to have called him a friend. He praised Wiesel for acting to bear witness in a way that changed the world.

"Just imagine the peace and justice that would be possible in our world if we all lived a little more like Elie Wiesel," Obama said.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande lauded Wiesel as "a grand humanist, tireless defender of peace."

"This universal man had a special relationship with France, where he studied after the war, where he published the first edition of 'The Night' thanks to Jerome Lindon, where he created the Universal Academy of Cultures in 1992," Hollande said. 

World Jewish Congress' Ronald S. Lauder released a statement saying that Wiesel's death is a loss of "the most articulate witness to history's greatest crime."

"Without Elie Wiesel in the world, it is up to every one of us now to stand up to the deniers," Lauder said.  |With his passing, we will all have to work a little harder because we will no longer have Elie to remind us of what happens when the world is silent and indifferent to evil. It is now our job, and that of our children and grandchildren, to pick up the baton and to relay Elie's message of hope and peace to the world."  

Television and radio host Larry King bid Wiesel farewell as well. "I knew him well," he said in a tweet. "He was a great man and a wonderful writer. Rest in peace."